How to keep Alberta's grizzly bears—and yourself—safe this spring
When visiting bear country, it’s up to you to be on your best behaviour.
By KATIE WILLIS
Spring has sprung in Alberta, and with it comes grizzly bear season.
With Parks Canada providing free passes to all national parks in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, keeping bear safety practices top of mind is more important than ever.
Most bears try to avoid humans, but sometimes their search for food brings them to settlements, towns or campsites. University of Alberta ecologist and wildlife expert Mark Boyce said food has a lot to do with the grizzly's propensity for getting in trouble.
“Problem behaviour is exacerbated when fewer wild foods are available,” explained Boyce. “As bears learn they can access food in human settlements, they adopt problem behaviour that is very difficult to change.”
Boyce noted that it is common for female grizzlies to become nuisance bears, because the males dominate the best habitat the farthest away from human settlements and with the richest wild food sources. To avoid male bears who will attack and kill cubs, female grizzlies will put themselves more at risk near roads and human settlements.
“The best way of managing problem behaviour in bears is prevention, or preventing attractants from being present in human settlements in the first place,” said Boyce. “Anything we can do to minimize contact between humans and bears will reduce the chances of bear mortality.”
Headed to the mountains? Keep these tips in mind
- Bears have an incredibly strong sense of smell, so keep all garbage well contained, especially in summer. Store food and garbage in airtight containers, and bring your garbage out with you when you’re camping.
- Only deposit garbage in bear-proof receptacles.
- Keep dog food indoors or sealed in airtight containers and stored with your own food while camping or in cottages.
- Do not use bird feeders or spread bird seed.
- If you see a bear, give it a wide berth, especially if it has cubs.
- While hiking, make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a bear on the trail.
- Never feed or approach wildlife.